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* Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa plays downs links with China on trip to India
Sun, Dec 1, 2019, 06:37 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Dec 01 (SCMP) Sri Lanka's newly elected President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa sought to play down his country's links to China on his first trip to neighbouring India. The ties between Colombo and Beijing were "purely commercial", he said in an interview with Indian newspaper The Hindu on Saturday.

Rajapaksa, who won the presidential election last month, also played down the military links between China and Sri Lanka - like the visit of Chinese submarines to the island nation in 2014 when he was defense secretary.

"I think the main issues India has with us would be on [our relations with] China or Pakistan," he said.

Rajapaksa encouraged companies from around the world to invest in Sri Lanka.

"I want to tell India, Japan, Singapore and Australia and other countries to also come and invest in us," he said.

"They should tell their companies to invest in Sri Lanka and help us grow, because if they donít, then not only Sri Lanka, but countries all over Asia will have the same [problem]. The Chinese will take the Belt and Road Initiative all over unless other countries provide an alternative.

China has been accused of creating debt traps in Sri Lanka with the construction of white elephant projects.

Hambanthota port, built with Chinese funds in the south of the country, was completed in 2010, but seven years later, unable to keep up repayments on the loan, Colombo leased it back to a Chinese operator for a period of 99 years.

Despite those concerns, Beijing earlier this year agreed a US$1 billion loan for a new road project.

Professor Madhav Nalapat of Manipal University in India said Rajapaksa would continue to pursue "mutually beneficial commercial contacts with Beijing while remaining close to India and the US on matters relating to the Indo-Pacific".

Days after his election victory, Rajapaksa met Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan in Colombo and agreed that the new president would visit Beijing soon.

Read More:: SCMP (Source)